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In Their Skin


2012 | 97 min | R | 2.39:1

In Their Skin

Rating


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Theatrical release date


 16 November, 2012

Country of origin


 Canada

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In Their Skin

 (2012)

In Their Skin Preview  

4
 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, November 16, 2012

“In Their Skin” deserves some amount of credit for even attempting to root its tale of a home invasion in a psychologically troubling place of envy and obsession. It’s an open attempt to understand the headspace of the antagonists, but the effect gradually washes away the longer the feature lingers on its cast to articulate the heightened concern. Although the movie kicks off superbly with a chilling opening half that’s inventive and disquieting, the payoff indulges the worst instincts of the subgenre, forcing shallow acts of intimidation and humiliation on material that’s at its best when stewing in a mystifying atmosphere of unraveling behavior.



After the loss of their young daughter, Mark (Joshua Close, who also scripts) and Mary (Selma Blair) retreat to their remote vacation home to help clear their heads and refocus parenting efforts on their pre-teen son, Brendon (Quinn Lord). Stampeding into their lives one afternoon is Bobby (James D’Arcy), a particularly nosy neighborhood stranger with a young wife in Jane (Rachel Miner), and a boy named Jared (Alex Ferris). Pushing themselves into a dinner invitation, Bobby and his family probe Mark and Mary intensely, trying to cover their questions and odd personalities with overenthusiastic kindness, leaving the couple weary and unsettled by the careful attention. When dinner is disrupted by an act of violence between the boys, the evening dissolves into a harrowing game of survival as Bobby looks to take control of Mark’s seemingly perfect life through brute force.

The screenplay for “In Their Skin” initially favors a deliberate obscurity to the long weekend shared by Mark, Mary, and Brendon. The viewer doesn’t understand the particulars of the domestic discomfort, but the situation is clearly icy between the parents. Their communication skills have ceased to be effective, while marital sex becomes a game of frustration as Mark tries to reclaim his grief-stricken wife. The weekend is intended to air out some of the building pressure, yet it appears to be making things worse, a feeling exacerbated by a few mysterious happenings in the area, including a seemingly random station wagon that pulls into the driveway one night, only to exit after a period of prolonged study. The pieces of confusion and discomfort are arranged marvelously by director Jeremy Regimbal, displaying tight command over the burgeoning darkness taking hold of the picture.



Bobby and his family are outwardly strange folk, but it’s not immediately clear what their intent is for Mark and his loved ones. The dinner scene, the finest moment in the film, contains subtle waves of antagonism and seduction, gradually tightening suspense as Bobby keeps bombarding everyone with intimate questions, exhausting Mary, who clings to a glass of red wine for support. “In Their Skin” should’ve remained in this claustrophobic space for the duration of the picture, sustaining an absorbing mystery around Bobby and his artificially sweetened presence, Jane and her odd flirtations, and Jared, who looks a lot older than your average nine year-old. The tension of this sequence is exceptional, providing hope that Regimbal and Close are prepared to sustain the captivating tension all the way to the end.

Unfortunately, “In Their Skin” implodes once Bobby exposes his true intent, transforming enigmatic ways into a particularly dopey retread of recent chillers like “The Strangers” and “Funny Games.” Insidious actions are inflated to cartoon levels of threat, finding D’Arcy particularly overwhelmed with the demands of his character, turning Bobby’s menace into a broadly defined villain out to study Mark and Mary’s routine to best shape his own delusions of domestic strength. Waving a gun and dancing around the frame, D’Arcy delivers desperate work, lacking help from Regimabal, who should’ve reined in his star from the start.



Guns are drawn, cries for help are made, dogs are killed, and Bobby pushes his hostages to put on a sex show. “In Their Skin” loses impact with every lunge toward unsavory behavior. Logic is discarded as well, finding Mark curiously unable to defend his family despite having every possible motivation to do so. His paralysis is unforgivably phony, as is the screenplay’s summation that unspeakable, life-threatening trauma does wonders for a broken marriage. “In Their Skin” dies a horrible death in the second half, which is a crying shame when the opening is so strong and uniquely disturbing. Instead of developing that irresistible squeeze, the production introduces chaos, losing control of the film in the process.

Starring: Joshua Close, Selma Blair, James D'Arcy
Director: Jeremy Power Regimbal

» See full cast & crew




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